The Paradise Unseen: An appraisal of potential for Eco-tourism in Poonch-Rajouri region by Mujahid Ul Islam is a book focusing on the tourism of these two district of Jammu. It is being promoted by Association for Promotion, India. He has dedicated the book to his father, Late Farman Ali. Tourism is one of the fastest growing industries around the world but for India it still in early stage as lots more to do in this field. So keeping this in mind, writer tried his best to attract people’s attention towards giving importance to tourism in two districts of Jammu region.
Mujahid has laid stress on development of tourism as an industry in the country but at the same time he has reflected his concern on ill effect of tourist on environment and ecology. He has given solution through ecotourism, which implies conservation, preservation and development. Hence the sustainable tourism is beneficial for all.
Jammu and Kashmir which is the most beautiful state in India and has been nicknamed as ‘Paradise on earth’ still need improvements in the field of tourism in the regions like Poonch and Rajouri which are the two important districts of the state. As the writer believes that there is the difference in the development levels of tourism between the state and the Pir Panjal region. He believes that the region, Jammu is rich in natural, historical and cultural sources for ecotourism. In the book, he has highlighted its natural scenery, cultural and religious multitudes with unique historical heritage which can provide enormous prospects for ecotourists. The scenic beauty of the region can be examine through snow covered mountain peaks during winters, meandering lakes, crystal clear water flowing in lakes and streams. There are various flora and fauna which are adding to its beauty. There are also many buildings showing its architectural quality and cultural mosaic reflecting its unique and rich history and culture.
He has included list of maps in the book beneficial for the guidance of tourists who are willing to visit Jammu district like; Map of Jammu and Kashmir, Tehsil map of Rajouri district, Tehsil map of Poonch district and Route Map of Poonch district. These maps are very beneficial and serves as guides for the various sites located in the region.
The book is enriched with pictorial quality as there are list of pictorial illustrations including protographs of Noori Chhamb Water fall, Nandishool Water fall, Behram Gala, Mandi, Valley of Surankote, Nandan Sar Lake, Girjan dhok, Front view of Tatakuti Peaks, Mughal Road, Dehr, Chir Forests, Poonch Fort, Bagh Deodi, Moti Mahal, Shrine of Sain Miran Bakhsh, Shrine of Chhote Shah, Shrine of Sain Fazal Illahi Bakhsh, Gurudwara Nangali Saab, Budha Amarnath Temple, Taras and Kothas, Koel, Leopard, Nargis Flower, Shrine of Shahdara Shrief, Mangla Mata Temple, Chingus Sarai, Dhanidhar Fort, Folk dress and Jewellery and Transhumance activity.
The writer has divided the book into four chapters depicting his experience and creativity. Chapter 1 which is expanding in eighteen pages is entitled as, ‘Ecotourism, Infrastructure and Economy- A Theoretical Framework dealing with topics like Tourism: Definitions and Nature, Categorizations of Tourism, Ecotourism: Definitions and Nature, Forms of Ecotourism in Poonch Rajouri Region, Tourism and Socio economic Development, Tourism Infrastructure of the region and Factors controlling Development of Ecotourism in Poonch Rajouri Region. Hence as the titles suggests, the writer has devoted the chapter to the introduction and conceptual framework of tourism and ecotourism. He has provided different classifications of the tourism and factors controlling tourism in the region. At the same time he has also thrown light on the relationship between socio economic development and tourism. Very specifically, the writer has described the origin, meaning and history of the word, ‘tourism’ giving various examples. Purpose and need of tourism is clearly reflected in the chapter.
Mujahid has categorised tourism on various levels such as: Categorization according to United Nations elaborating into- Domestic tourism, Inbound tourism and Outbound tourism. The second is McIntosh’s categorization which he has further expanded into Physical motivators, Cultural motivators, Interpersonal motivators and Status cum prestige motivators. The Third is Robinson’s categorization which he has further elaborated into; Relaxation and refreshment of mind and body, Health, Pleasure, Curiosity and culture, Interpersonal reasons, spiritual purposes and Professional or business purposes. He has further simplified them into various sub-categorises describing importance of each. He had laid great stress on ecotourism by stating:
Ecotourism is one strategy for supporting conservation and providing income for communities in an around protected areas. It can contribute to economic development and conservation of protected areas by: a) generating revenues that can be used to sustainably manage protected areas, b) providing local employment and c) inculcating a sense of community ownership.
Giving value to ecotourism he defines it to be ecological friendly tour and travelling which will not be harm to natural environments and culture and at the same time their conservation and economic activity go hand in hand. Hence ecotourism is sustainable and beneficial for government, people and environment.
Author has given importance to the rural tourism in the book which can help in the economic development of rural people resulting in nation building. Rural landscape which involves both natural and social leading to the interaction with villagers and village life, promotion of rural art and craft, their cultures and traditions, their heritage and customs. Thus resulting in the preservation of rural culture and tradition also aiming at both learning about and benefiting the rural population.
In the book, he has provided tourism infrastructure of the region by giving various information such as: Connectivity and Mobility, accommodation, communication, eating places and bars, way stations and wayside services. He has highlighted main factors controlling ecotourism in Rajouri-Poonch region like: Weather and climate, miscellaneous tourism infrastructure, socio political stability, awareness and expertise, advertisement, amenities and facilities, capital and ecotourism sources giving proper information of each segment.
Chapter 2 commences from page 19 and is expanding till 42 is entitled as ‘Ecotourism Sources in Poonch District’ dealing with the exploration of natural, religious, historical and cultural sources of Poonch District. In this chapter, he talks about some places of tourist interest in Poonch viz; Noori Chhamb, Nandishool, Dehra ki Gali, Behramgala, Mandi, Loran, Valley of Surankote, Girjan Dhok, Nandan Sar, Tatakuti peaks, Mughal road, Pir ki gali and Dehr. While Noori Chhamb is a waterfall, near Behram Galla in Tehsil Surankote, Nandishool is another waterfall about 12 kms from the village Loran in Tehsil Mandi. Dehra ki Galli is an important tourist attraction located at a height of about 6300 feet above sea level and Behramgala is a beautiful tableland. Mandi and Loran are small beautiful villages surrounded by mountains and Surankote is a small town situated on the banks of river Suran. Girjan Dhok is a vale of seven stunning and stupendous lakes of geological importance situated at an altitude of 12000 feet. Nandan Sar, the largest lake of Poonch is around one mile long and half a mile wide. The highest mountain peak of Pir Panchal Range which is of high tourist attraction, Tatakuti peak is at an elevation of 15560 feet. The newly reconstructed Mughal road has turned out to be luxurious for tourists making it a paradise for eco-tourists and adventurers with reminiscence of Mughal period including shrines and religious sites, unexplored forests, fine-looking meadows, springs, rivulets, waterfalls transhumant activity and diverse cultures. Then on the right side of Mughal Road near Pir Panjal is Pir Li Gali, which is memorial of saint, Sheikh Ahmed Kareem visited by people of all walks of life. There is also beautiful grassland surrounded by mountains of all sides, Dehr which is a Dhok (meadow) in village Mahra in the Tehsil of Surankote at an altitude of around 6000 feet. He has provided all the information regarding trekking sources in the region.
Poonch has some historical places like Poonch fort, Moti Mahal, Bagh Deodi and Sheesh Mahal which has been mentioned in the book with its specific details and pictures. There are religious sources of faith like Islam, Hinduis, Budhism and Sikhism in the district; Ziarat Sain Miran Sahib, Ziarat Chhote Shah Sahib, Ziarat Saun Illahi Bakhsh Sahib, Ziarat Pir Fazal Shah Sahib, Ziarat Pir Rattan Shah, Budha Amarnath Temple, Ramkund Temple, Shri Dashnami Akhara Temple and Gurudwara Nangali Sahib.
He has also described about various festivals and celebrations celebrated by the people in the region like Dussehra, Holi and Baisakhi fare. There are various folk songs sung by different ethnic groups in the region such as, ‘Baisakhi’, ‘Cuckoo’, ‘Sahiban’, ‘Mehndi’, ‘Saif-ul-Malook’, ‘Wanawun’, ‘Chakri’, ‘Mahari’, ‘Kenchi’, ‘Chann’ and ‘Dholan’ by Dogri, Kashmiris, Punjabis, Paharis, Gujjars and Bakarwals. Important folk dances of the region are Punjabi Bhangra, Gojri dance, Letri, Keekli, Rouf and Chhakri. Poonch district is also rich and diverse in arts and handicrafts as well.
Chapter 3 begins from page 43 and ends on 72 is entitled as ‘Ecotourism Sources in Rajouri District’ dealing with exploration of natural, religious, historical and cultural sources of Rajouri District. The place, Rajouri is 154 km away from Jammu and is located in the foothills and is located in the foothills of Pir Panjal Range. Dhauladhar range lies on the north eastern frontier of the district. Road is the only means of connectivity with other parts of the state and it takes 3 to 4 hours to reach the place. The district comprises of 6 Tehsils and 7 Blocks. The speciality of Rajouri district is that it is diverse in terms of religion, language, cultures and traditions. As people of all major religions of India; Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism and Christianity resides here peacefully speaking different languages like Hindi, Urdu, Kashmiri, Dogri, Gojri and Pahari.
Mujahid has summarised ecotourism in Rajouri District under the following headings: Natural sources which includes destinations such as Budhal, Nowshera, Thannamandi, Dehra ki Gali, Kalkote, Sunderbani, Tatta Pani, Samot Sar, Chandan sar, Divya Sar, Gum Sar and Manyal Gali. Religious sources like Ziarat (Shrine) Shahdara Sharief, Gurudwara Chatti Patshahi Bangla Sahib (Rajouri), Mangla Mata, Peer Badesar, Ziarat Sain Ganji Sahib, Dera Baba Beeram Shah, Panj Pir (Five Saints), Ziarat Baba Sakhi Sultan, Naogazi Ziarat, Chani Prat Temple, Manna Mata Temple, Ziarat Sain Walidad, Ziarat Rattan Pir and Shrine of Manma Mata. Historical sources such as Rajouri Temple, Sarai, Mosque and Fort which includes; Muradpur: Sarai and Mosque, Chingus: Sarai and Bawli, kheora: Kushan Site, Sarai, Mosque and Hammam at Nowshera, Nadpur Sarai, Mangla Devi Fort and Dhanidhar Fort. There are two buildings build in memory of martyrs; Usman Memorial which has been constructed at Jhangar in the memory of Brigadier Usman, of Indian Army who played an important role in recapturing the area around Jhangar. A congregation is organised by Indian Army on 3rd July every year as Jhangar Day in memory of Brigadier Usman who fell prey to intense shelling of Pakistani forces on 3rd July 1948. Another is Balidan Bhawan, a memoir of great sacrifice made by the people of Rajouri during 1947-48. He has also provided all the information regarding trekking routes of Rajouri in this chapter.
Almost all the major festivals of India are being celebrated here by people of different sects. There is a local celebration, ‘Nowshera Day’ celebrated by locals and Indian military on 6th February remembering the heroism of civilians of Nowshera in repulsing the attack of Pakistan invaders in 1975. Folk songs and ballads sung by different ethnic groups in the region are, ‘Noora’, ‘Taago’, ‘Dhindi’, ‘Baisakhi’, ‘Kenchi’, ‘Lucko’, ‘Chann’, ‘Dholan’, ‘Sahiban’, ‘Mehndi’, ‘Laari’, ‘Saif-ul-Malook’, ‘Bar-Shams’, ‘Wanawun’, ‘Chakri’, ‘Mahiya.’ Important folk dances of Rajouri are; Dogri and Punjabi Bhangra, Gojri Dance, Letri, Chowki Naach, Jattar, Jagarana, Keekli and Rouf. The place is also rich and diverse in various handicrafts.
Chapter 4 is beginning from 73 and ends at 80 is entitled as ‘Problems and Recommendations’ discusses major problems that are disrupting the development of ecotourism in the region as well as suggestion and recommendation propounded by the writer to overcome these issues. Major problems as highlighted by the writer which hinges in the growth of tourism in the region are: lack of awareness, transportation and communication, insufficient advertisement, inconsideration to training programmes, border location and political turmoil, lack of research and data, insufficient miscellaneous tourism infrastructure, lack of people’s participation, occupation of ecotourism sites by army/military and occupation of heritage sites by local administration. As for example, places of immense importance like Poonch fort has been used as a public building since long time. So these are the hurdles which have to be overcome for better prospects of tourism in the region.
Some suggestions provided by the writer to solve these issues are of vital importance. He believes that there is a need of infrastructural development as there is an urgent need to develop sectors like transportation, communication and health facilities. Beside basic infrastructural development, he thinks that government should enhance tourism infrastructure leading to the scope of tourist arrivals including the development of art and craft, tourism resorts, Cable cars/Gandolas, Horse travelling and Toy trains.
Barring these he believes that State government should take necessary action towards railway development and other measures like advertisements, research, computerisation and information compilation, withdrawal of Army/Military from heritage sites, people participation and training programme, exploration of new tourist spots and their development, increased investment, improved visitor facilitation, co-operation of district authorities with the state and other organisations, reallocation of public offices, conservation, preservation and sustainability and last but not the least is hospitality. As Mujahid says:
People participation at every level is a must. They must welcome the visitors with love and affection. They must make them feel at home. They need to follow the ancient Indian talisman of “Atithi Devo Bhava- the Guest is a god.” (79)
Writer has carried out tremendous effort to present the region of Rajouri and Poonch districts as one of the finest ecotourism destinations of India. For this he has used every possible method needed. He has intended to provide the book to the Research Scholars and Policy Planners with a well rounded understanding of wide range of issues concerning tourism, especially in the Poonch-Rajouri region.
The book is a remarkable piece of work reflecting the hard work, talent and skill of the writer. It is valuable and highly recommendable for people interested in visiting a place of scenic beauty. This is a great attempt for the promotion of tourism in Poonch and Rajouri districts of Jammu & Kashmir.
Shamenaz Sheikh is Associate Professor of English in an Engineering College-AIET, Allahabad. She completed Phd in English Literature at University of Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh.